There’s no shortage of articles and books being written about strategies and tactics for church growth and revitalization. With so many churches stagnating or declining, it is no wonder why so many authors are dedicating themselves to offering up solutions. But, there’s one problem with all of these articles and books. They start from the assumption that these churches actually want to grow. Sure, they say they want to grow, but quite often what they really want is to be sure the church won’t die. Wanting to grow, and wanting to avoid death aren’t even remotely the same things. So, for churches who have tried the growth thing and decided it isn’t really working out, I wanted to offer up 12 easy steps to shrink your church.
- When a young family who has never been to church struggles with a noisy child who does not yet know how to sit “appropriately” in church, make sure you let them know that “our children don’t behave like that.” Add in some critiques of their parenting abilities, and make them feel judged just enough that they’ll be too embarrassed to come back.
- The next time someone shows up to church in jeans, or in something that isn’t considered religiously appropriate, let them know. Either that or just stare at them until they are uncomfortable. Perhaps they’ll get the hint…that we expect our attire to fit a certain, unwritten code for what’s acceptable.
- As soon as someone begins attending a new ministry, make sure they are quickly educated on “how we do things” around here.
- At coffee hour or during a potluck, make sure you only sit by people you know really well. That new person can find an empty chair somewhere else.
- Insist that what really counts is being able to give the right answers when the pastor asks you questions about the Bible and faith. Outside-the-box thinking, doubts about traditional biblical interpretation, or the inclusion of emotions and experiences when reading the Bible are not acceptable.
- Ignore anyone who is having difficulties in their lives. Make church a place where it is important to grin and bear it rather than embrace and share it.
- When someone new visits your church, make sure to talk really loudly about “that new person” to your pastor or someone else you know really well. Ask lots of questions about where they came from, who their parents are, and how they found out about the church…and make sure the new person is within earshot.
- Make ministries as boring as possible. Set up a list of lengthy rules of what can be done and when. And do not have any fun. Ever. Playing games (unless they are Bible trivia), laughing, and enjoying each other’s company are not godly.
- When talking about sin, use “they” and “them” a lot. It’s easier to talk about other people’s sins than our own, and it makes us feel a lot better about ourselves, too.
- Condemn new technology. Never entertain the idea of setting up a social media website for your church. Refuse to use email, and insist that popular movies, books, or technological trends have no place in worship.
- Point out visitors during the worship service. Ask them to stand and introduce themselves to everyone, or parade them around the sanctuary so that everyone can get a good look at them.
- Do not ever explain how anything is done. Everyone who needs to know already knows, and explaining things to anyone who might be visiting – like how we take communion – takes too much time.
Don’t be overwhelmed by this list. Perfecting just a few items may be sufficient to ensure that your church never grows. And, this list isn’t exhaustive. Feel free to add your own “best practices.”